Truffled Shepherd’s Pies

Shepherd’s pie – another one of those quintessential comfort food dishes.

Comfort food is an overused term in the food world. But you won’t hear me complaining. Comfort food has always been around. It’s just that we have a nice little click bait-friendly term for it nowadays. It’s all-encompassing – but I usually see two common threads: comfort food is hot, and it’s carb-packed.

What is the definition of comfort food anyway?

It’s defined as, “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.”

Point being – it’s about memories, and less so about the food itself.

I’ve only had Shepherd’s Pie one other time in my life. But the specifics are hazy.

It was somewhere in New York, at one of those British pubs. Probably on a side street off of 5th Avenue. And I probably ordered a Guinness with it – those were my Guinness days. It’s a major food gap in my cooking repertoire at home, so this dish was a long time coming.

Pie

My other major food gap? Duck leg confit. Wow, was I missing out.

D’Artagnan produces package-sealed duck confit that you can pull out of the freezer and put straight under a broiler. I bought them on a whim. And I almost cried while eating it – I’m not being hyperbolic, I was so elated by the revelation of duck fat that I almost cried. It was perfect. Duck fat is like chicken fat, but gamier. I didn’t know duck, stewed in duck fat, could taste so good.

This shepherd’s pie, while not as much a revelation as duck confit, is still that blow-your-mind level comfort food. No fond childhood memories required – it’s just plain good.

Making some of these foods at home, at the right place and time, are reminiscent of childhood home cooking. Browning the ground beef, the smell of boiled potatoes, and sauteeing mirepoix all brought back smells, tastes and sights that trigger those fuzzy memories.

But, we need to make room for the new comfort foods in our lives. For me that’s absolutely and unequivocally, duck confit. Even if it’s package sealed sometimes.

Happy comfort food cooking! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 4 small casseroles.

  • 2 lbs. red bliss potatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons black truffle butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. ground beef (20% fat)
  • 2 carrots, small diced
  • 2 celery stalks, small diced
  • 1 large white onion, small diced
  • 1 / 2 lb. mushrooms, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons thyme, minced
  • 1 splash red wine vinegar
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, sautéing for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes or so. Add the ground beef and brown the meat. Once the meat is browned and broken up, add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Sautee for 10 minutes or so, until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. In the meantime, heat a large pot of boiling, salted water. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fork tender. Strain. Add the potatoes back to the pot, adding the butter, truffle butter, heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of salt. Beat with a hand mixture until the potato mixture is thickened. Allow the potatoes to cool for 10 minutes. Then crack the egg into the potato mixture, stirring until incorporated. Put the potato mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. To the meat mixture, add the water, bouillon cube, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, bay leaf and thyme. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the gravy is thickened. Remove from the heat, allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, and put the mixture in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
  5. In 4 6 by 4 inch casserole dishes, or gratin dishes, layer the meat mixture, then the potato mixture. With a fork, create small peaks with the potato mixture. This will help parts of the pie brown in the oven. Place the pies on a sheet pan in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the peaks on the potato have browned.
  6. Serve hot.

Cobb Salad Steak Sandwich

Cobb salads – where would we be without them? Besides Caesar salads, they are probably the salad I order most often if I’m in a green-eating mood at a restaurant.

Cobb salads are an inherently American dish. They are known to have originated in the 1920s when a restaurant owner, Robert Howard Cobb, waited until the end of a shift to pull together whatever leftover toppings he had on hand to make a filling salad. I can only imagine how good this must have tasted in a late night, post-booze binge.

You have your bacon and eggs – almost a nod to breakfast. Blue cheese, avocado and chicken are all protein-heavy and wholesome. And I believe there’s some magical flavor combination that’s achieved when you have the red onion, blue cheese, bacon and egg flavor all in one bite. These flavors go so well together – super harmonious.

I couldn’t remember ever having eaten these Cobb salad elements in anything other than a salad format. I’ve repeatedly fantasized about bringing Cobb salad deviled eggs to life, knowing that post is an imminent Hankerings recipe. And I love a good steak sandwich, so I knew I was headed in the right direction with this one.

I will always order extra dressing with any salad, and Cobb salads are no exception. It’s always blue cheese dressing on my salads. But here I went with a Dijon mayo. It goes great with the rare steak, and you’re getting the blue cheese crumbles on top, so we’re still checking the blue cheese box.

Speaking of salads-turned-sandwiches, if you haven’t tried it already, Ina Garten makes a mind-blowing Caesar Club Sandwich that not only tastes just like a really good Caesar salad enclosed in a giant crouton – it also comes with pancetta – which adds some serious crisp and melty, greasy pork flavor. I cannot emphasize enough how good that sandwich tastes, and I encourage you to try it when the mood hits you.

Here’s to reinventing our favorite salads – the only limit is our imagination! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 filet mignon
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 1 / 4 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce, cut to a chiffonade
  • 1 / 2 cup blue cheese crumbles, of your choosing
  • 1 small red heirloom tomato, sliced thin
  • 1 / 2 avocado, pit removed, sliced thin lengthwise
  • 2 airy rolls, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 / 4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 cup Dijon mustard
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Dry the filet with a paper towel, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.
  3. Put the filet in the pan, and sear on medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes on all sides, until the meat is seared and crispy.
  4. Put the filet in the oven, roasting for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on size, until the meat thermometer reads 145* for rare.
  5. Remove the steak, and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Once slightly cooled, slice the filet against the grain.
  6. Combine the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, and set aside.
  7. To prepare the sandwiches, spread 2 tablespoons of the Dijon mayo mixture on both sides of the roll. Layer half the steak, romaine, tomato, red onion, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, and bacon. Layer the second sandwich. Cut sandwiches in half, and serve.

Filet Mignon with Goat Cheese Whipped Cream

Goat cheese whipped cream sound a little too funky for you? Don’t let the name fool you – it is utterly delicious.

I had my doubts that the texture would mesh well – wrong, it was perfect. And even quicker and easier than making a compote butter. I added salt and pepper, the only other ingredients I could justify. I really wanted the goat cheese flavor to shine through.

whipped_cream

It got me thinking about other savory whipped cream toppings. It’s easy to forget that butter is churned cream – and if I were to keep beating for a couple more minutes, I’d have goat cheese butter. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen in my kitchen.

I thought I’d list some ideas that come to mind for a whipped cream steak topper, or another broiled meat, for the adventurous eater types. My gut is telling me my next whipped cream creation will be a brie version.

An added disclaimer – you’re required to let me know how these taste, in the event you try one. 😊

  • Boursin cheese whipped cream
  • Red wine whipped cream
  • Roasted garlic whipped cream
  • Brie cheese whipped cream
  • Smoked salmon whipped cream
  • Black peppercorn whipped cream
  • Shallot whipped cream
  • Tarragon whipped cream
  • Anchovy whipped cream
  • Truffled whipped cream
  • Cream cheese whipped cream
  • Blue cheese whipped cream
  • Harissa whipped cream
  • Tabasco whipped cream

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  G o a t  C h e e s e  W h i p p e d  C r e a m

  • 4 oz. chevre
  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  F i l e t  M i g n o n

  • 2 filet mignon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*.
  2. Put all the whipped cream ingredients in a bowl, and beat on medium speed with a hand mixer until it reaches whipped cream consistency – about 30 seconds to a minute.
  3. Pat the filets dry, and sprinkle all sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Coat an oven-safe skillet with olive oil, and melt 2 tablespoons of butter on high heat. Sear the steaks for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, then sear the edges of the steak for 1 minute each.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon of butter on the top of each filet, and place the steaks in the oven. Broil for 8 minutes for rare, checking with a meat thermometer until the steaks reach preferred doneness, if desired.
  6. Serve the steaks hot, topped with the goat cheese whipped cream.

Steak Fingers

So simple. So good.

Do you have steak, flour, neutral oil and buttermilk in your fridge and pantry right now?

I thought so. Go ahead and get that oil ready at frying temp, because you’re having steak fingers for dinner tonight.

Just like your classic Southern fried chicken, you’re looking for those ripply, crispy grooves of fried batter. The thick coating of flour readily adheres to the buttermilk and is going to help with that.

And the dredge is garlic powder heavy. Because it’s going to make these ultra-yummy – something that garlic powder is particularly good at.

I have this thing about marbled steaks. When I go to the butcher counter, I’ll typically gravitate toward the marbly-est one. Even when the bone is in, or the portion is too much for what I need. This usually leaves me with ribeye, skirt steak and T-bone cuts. Here, I walked out with an inches-thick, fatty ribeye.

I let the steak strips marinate in the buttermilk for several hours. It moistened the meat to a degree I didn’t think possible. Something about that slightly acidic dairy does something wonderful to proteins that live in it for a while.

The dipping sauces to go along with these strips? That’s where you do you. I love dipping meat strips of any variety in my favorite barbecue sauce – the most readily available, best tasting barbecue sauce is Stubb’s Spicy Barbecue Sauce. It’s a bit tangier, and the “spicy” moniker actually lives up to its name.

Because I can’t help a good plug – other good dippers might be any one of Hankerings dressings – especially Hankerings Not-So-Secret Ranch Dressing. Or you could go for Hankerings Blue Cheese Dressing. Steak and blue cheese? Classic. Whatever your move, both will be explosively good with these strips.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 1 / 2 lb. ribeye steak
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt, plus extra for sprinkling as garnish
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • Enough vegetable or canola oil to reach two inches-high in a fry-safe pan

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut the entire ribeye into strips – approximately 1 1 / 2 inches wide and 6 inches long. If you have shorter and longer pieces, it’s all good. Let it marinate in the buttermilk for as long as possible, preferably overnight.
  2. Combine the dredge ingredients – the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a fry-safe pan – enough that the oil rises 2 inches high in the pan. To test the oil readiness, put a pinch of flour in the oil. If it begins to sizzle and brown, the oil is ready to use.
  4. Remove the steak strips from the buttermilk, and dredge them in the flour, pressing the coating into the meat so there is a thick coating. Move the dredged steak strips to a clean plate.
  5. Once the oil is ready, place the steak strips in the oil, being careful not to crow the strips.
  6. Fry the strips for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown.
  7. Remove the strips from the oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt, alongside your favorite dipping sauce.
  8. Serve hot.

 

Black & Blue Cheese Filet Mignon Burgers

The story behind this recipe can be found in Hankerings’ latest post, Country Grilling in Lexington, Virginia. I hope you enjoy!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 2 6 to 8 oz. beef filets, cut lengthwise
  • 4 brioche rolls, or other rolls of your choosing
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 1 / 4 cup sour cream
  • 1 / 4 cup crumbled blue cheese, of your choosing
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon garlic powder

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the grill to medium heat – about 350*. Coat the grate with olive oil.
  2. Sprinkle the filets with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the filets on the grill, cooking them for 4 minutes on each side, until rare. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Toast buns, if desired, on the cool part of the grill while the filets are grilling. Remove once toasted.
  5. To make the blue cheese sauce, combine the sour cream, blue cheese crumbles, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Set aside.
  6. Place the filets on the rolls. Top with the blue cheese sauce, and additional blue cheese crumbles if desired.